Walk - Riviera Line - Starcross - Cockwood Circular
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
Walk to Cockwood and then enjoy a circular walk from Cockwood harbour. This was created when Brunel built the South Devon line in the 1840s. Continue past marshland full of wildlife then climb up Cofton Hill for magnificent views of the Exe estuary. There has been a settlement in Cockwood since Norman times.
Once Cockwood is reached this walk follows minor road and a footpath. There is a fairly steep climb out of the village. The footpath may be muddy in wet weather.
- From Starcross Station keep on the right hand side pavement and follow the railway, river, coast path and road southwards. This road can be very busy so take care. Pass the golf course on your right. Turning the corner, carefully cross the road at the pedestrian lights. Take the left turn over the bridge to Cockwood. There is no pavement but the road is not as busy!
Cockwood is a charming olde-worlde waterfront community, separated from the River Exe estuary by the South Devon Riviera Line. The village with some 17th century character cottages is built up and around a small tidal harbour (known as Cockwood Sod). The Sod, being tidal, is fed from the Exe under two historic railway arches, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. More character housing is located further back along a route which eventually comes out in the community of Cofton, and its charming church, St. Mary's.
- With the harbour on your left, follow the road. Before reaching the Anchor Inn take the right hand fork away from the harbour. Pass Cofton Parish Hall and at the Ship Inn turn sharp left and walk up Cofton Hill.
The Anchor Inn is over 450 years old and was originally opened as a Seamen's Mission. It was a haven for seamen and smugglers and is said to be haunted by a friendly ghost and his dog. The first Village Hall was built in 1894 for the sum of £279 and sited next to the Anchor Inn. When Cockwood Chapel, a Plymouth Brethren Meeting House, became available, the brewery bought the old village hall and Cockwood Chapel became Cofton Parish Hall.
The road loops round in a semi-circle, passing the primary school built in 1872. Continue up the hill. Leaving the residential area behind, you pass woodland on your left. The road levels, then starts to descend.
- Look out for a signposted narrow footpath on your right. Cross a stile into a field. Continue downhill through a fir plantation. Eventually, you come out on the road alongside St Mary’s Church.
St Mary’s Church is part of the Holiday Coast Mission Community along with churches in Dawlish, Starcross and Holcombe. A tablet on the outside of the church beneath the west window states that the chapel was founded in the 14th century. Having lain in a ruinous state for over 70 years, The Earl of Devon restored it and reopened it in 1839.
- Turn right at the church and follow the road back to Cockwood.
The two roads on your right contain first the settlement of Westwood and then Middlewood. Each has a narrow road climbing uphill with a mixture of character housing. The older buildings were often built using local rubble soten and cob and then given a protective coating of render and limewash. At each road’s end a track continues, joining together and leading up to the summit of Cofton Hill.
As you near the Ship Inn look to the left across the marsh. Below the left hand modern house can be seen what looks like a ruined castle gate house. These are in fact Grade II listed lime kilns. The limekiln shows exposed stonework with no rendering.
Take the time to explore Cockwood and its harbour. Refreshments are available at either of the two inns.
When finished exploring Cockwood, take the road around the harbour back to the main road and retrace your steps back to Starcross Station.
Starcross and Cockwood.